Monday, November 26, 2012

REAL ID Act - Don't be caught without a passport for travel within the U.S.

I live in New Mexico. As of January 15th , I can't use my New Mexico drivers license to pass through the TSA checkpoints for flights within the United States. Heck, I remember when I could use a driver's license to pass into and back from Mexico. But things are changing and many will be caught without a passport when they need one.

The Real ID Act, enacted May 11, 2005, was an Act of Congress that modified U.S. federal law pertaining to security, authentication, and issuance procedures standards for the state driver's licenses and identification (ID) cards, as well as various immigration issues pertaining to terrorism. Of course, many states got extensions to delay implementation. But the deadline is now upon us. And, if you are traveling you had better be aware of the Act and check the facts carefully. Otherwise, you may be turned back at a TSA checkpoint. Imagine missing your daughter's wedding in Hawaii, or that family reunion, or that trip to Florida for a little winter sunshine. Imagine!

According to Homeland Security Newswire, "Airport security screeners are beginning to see driver’s licenses with gold stars, issued by states which have been certified by DHS as compliant with federal REAL ID standards. These states include Indiana, South Dakota, Delaware, Connecticut, Utah, Alabama, Ohio, Florida, and West Virginia." Full article.

So how do you know if YOU will be affected?  You can check this article on the state's implementation status or, better yet, ask your state DMV. For New Mexico residents, this handy slide show will explain what type of ID you can use for travel after January 15th, 2013.

In New Mexico, the issue is all over the news. Pay attention to what your state DMV  press releases, call the AAA or the airport if you plan to travel. As information becomes available, I will attempt to post a list of compliant states here. Until then, check your documents before you travel so you are not unpleasantly surprised.

Map source: US Dept. of Homeland Security